How can I look after those members of staff that use computers?
A large amount of investigation and research into the effects of computer display screen equipment (DSE) or visual display units (VDUs), has failed to result in proof that VDU’s can in themselves cause disease or permanent damage to the eyes. Nevertheless, the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations emphasise the responsibility of employers for the eye care of VDU users.
It should also be acknowledged that many surveys demonstrate that despite this lack of scientific evidence, suspicions persist about the damage that computer screens are causing. Amazingly, the average user spend a staggering 35 hours a week sat in front of a computer screen, most failing to give any thought to adjusting their seats, workstations, screens or posture for better comfort.
As computer use both in the workplace and at home continues to rise, so does the number of people complaining of eyestrain. It is therefore vital that computer users get their eyes checked regularly and follow a healthy eye care regime. ‘Screen fatigue’, which manifests itself as sore, itchy, irritated eyes or temporary blurring of vision is said to affect up to 90 per cent of users.
Headaches and feelings of anxiety, are also greatly improved when attention is given to the arrangement of the workstation; symptoms that might otherwise be attributed either to general stress, or to the mere presence of a computer.
Some simple steps can be taken to prevent unnecessary strain:
- Training staff in the correct use of equipment.
- Ensure there is sufficient desk space for documents or other equipment required.
- Adjust the workstation to achieve good posture – the monitor should be 33-60cm from the eyes and the centre of the screen 10-l5cm below the natural eye level.
- The screen should be positioned immediately in front of the user, to avoid persistent neck strain.
- A minimum font size of 12 points or more is recommended and the screen should be kept clean. Glare, reflected light or backlight should be kept to a minimum.
- Position copy documents at roughly the same distance from the eyes as the screen to avoid having to re-focus. A document-holder may be helpful, to avoid awkward neck movements
- Arrange appropriate workplace lighting, (dimming ambient lights is beneficial). As well as replacing any flashing or strobing lights.
- Briefly rest the eyes every 20 minutes by taking short breaks away from the screen and focussing on distant objects.
- Maintain a reasonable level of humidity – particularly for contact-lens wearers and keep blinking, as concentration on the screen for long periods will slow the blink rate and dry the eyes.
Many users admit to regularly leaving work with headaches and tired or strained eyes. They also regularly suffer dry, irritated and watery eyes, and admit to being aware of imperfections with their eyesight. Users often accept that whilst they know they need to wear glasses or contact lenses, they don’t have their eyes tested.
Responsible employees will have developed a written policy on eye and eyesight tests, encourage their staff to visit an optician regularly and contribute to the costs of both tests and spectacles or contact lenses. Individual workstation risk assessments should be carried out regularly or if work locations change. These can be carried out by users themselves. It is important that findings are acted upon and that adjustable equipment is supplied depending on individual needs.